Demand is up and funding has tanked, Mamas for Mamas changing how it helps clients during COVID-19 - InfoNews

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Demand is up and funding has tanked, Mamas for Mamas changing how it helps clients during COVID-19

Shannon Christensen
April 13, 2020 - 6:00 AM

Mamas for Mamas, Kelowna-based agency used to help mostly single mothers struggling to make ends meet, runs lean in normal times.

These, however, are not normal times.

“When COVID hit we had a 108 per cent increase in clients from the first day of the shutdown, almost a month ago, until right now,” founder and CEO Shannon Christensen told iNFOnews.ca. “We also lost 98 per cent of our funding at the exact same time.”

Surprisingly, most of the new clients are not lower income single mothers, although they make up about a quarter of that number.

“Seventy-five per cent of our new clients have all been middle class, never having to access services before, so this is a very new experience for them,” she said.

“The shame is very heavy.”

Mamas for Mamas originated in Kelowna and has more than 50,000 members in Facebook chapters across Canada, including in Kamloops and Lake Country.

“Clients we’re seeing now are (from) two-income families,” Christensen said.

“They’ve both been working. They’ve never really had to worry about having to pay their rent or put food on the table. One or both of the parents have been laid off and they’ve never had to use a resource before. They don’t know how to access the food bank during normal times, let alone during a pandemic.”

She’s working with other agencies to adjust to that new reality of finding ways to help these people but she’s also looking at ways to keep financially afloat after much of her $1 million annual budget evaporated almost overnight.

“It was funding that was supposed to be coming in the first quarter and all of our corporate sponsors had to close down their charitable giving programs until they knew better what was going to happen with COVID-19,” Christensen said.

She doesn’t blame them a bit for pulling out as they struggled to keep employees at work. She’s had to launch other fundraising efforts and has brought in $75,000 in the last couple of weeks along with a provincial gaming grant of about $34,000. She’s able to keep staff employed and her 15,000 Kelowna members help support each other.

And she is still getting support from local business for things like a new effort to deliver 75 per cent of the Central Okanagan Food Bank’s “Tiny Bundles” program for pregnant women and mothers of infants.

That’s needed because mothers can only visit the Food Bank once a month now but still need food, diapers and other supplies.

Six companies are helping them make about 300 deliveries a week, including two construction firms who, when work is slow, send employees off to Mamas to do deliveries.

Christensen estimates it will take, at least, until June or July so get back on track.

“So, we’re going to have to do the best we can,” she said. “We’ve been creative. We’ve found ways to keep things going, to keep money in the bank.

Mamas has traditionally got financial support from businesses like car dealers and the tourism sector who are struggling right now. She’s shifting her focus to look at the charitable policies of bigger businesses that are actually doing well during the pandemic to find ways to tap into that funding source.

“We’ve realized, through this whole pandemic, what an essential service Mamas for Mamas really is,” Christensen said. “I’m just really grateful that we have a team that’s still working and I can still pay them and we can still supply support for these mamas at a time when they need it more than ever.”

She noted that it’s not just mothers they help. There are a lot of single fathers reaching out as well. She encouraged anyone in need to contact Mamas for Mamas.

See more on Mamas for Mamas here.


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